For as long has humans have lived in communities, storytelling has bound people to each other and to their environments. In recent times, scholars have noted how social networks arise around issues of resource and ecological management. In this book, Raul Lejano, Mrill Ingram, and Helen Ingram argue that stories, or narratives, play a key role in these networks—that environmental communities “narrate themselves into existence.” The authors propose the notion of the narrative-network, and introduce innovative tools to analyze the plots, characters, and events that inform environmental action. Their analysis sheds light on how environmental networks can emerge in unlikely contexts and sustain themselves against great odds.
The authors present three case studies that demonstrate the power of narrative and narratology in the analysis of environmental networks: a conservation network in the Sonoran Desert, which achieved some success despite U.S.-Mexico border issues; a narrative that bridged differences between community and scientists in the Turtle Islands; and networks of researchers and farmers who collaborated to develop and sustain alternative agriculture practice in the face of government inaction. These cases demonstrate that by paying attention to language and storytelling, we can improve our understanding of environmental behavior and even change it in positive ways.
About the Authors
Raul Lejano is Associate Professor in the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at New York University and the author of Frameworks for Policy Analysis: Merging Text and Context.
Mrill Ingram, a PhD in Geography, is an independent scholar in Madison, Wisconsin and Associate Director of the Gaining Ground Project at the Farley Center for Peace, Justice, and Sustainability.
Helen Ingram is Research Fellow at the Southwest Center, University of Arizona, and Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Irvine. She is the author or editor of many books, including Reflections on Water: New Approaches to Transboundary Conflicts and Cooperation (MIT Press, 2001).
“Clearly written and illustrated by rich case studies, this book establishes a powerful argument for the role of narrative in creating the identities that establish and maintain social networks tackling the complex and difficult challenges of social and ecological sustainability. In so doing, the authors lead us away from the usual repertoire of one-size-fits-all solutions—whether neoliberal fantasies of marketizing nature, managerial delusions of control, or naive conceptions of participation—toward a richer repertoire of stories to guide environmental action. The Power of Narrative in Environmental Networks is a must-read for social theorists and environmental practitioners alike.”
—Steve Rayner, James Martin Professor of Science and Civilization, Oxford University
“In recent years, narrative analysis has begun to receive the attention that it deserves in political and policy inquiry. Lejano, Ingram, and Ingram not only illustrate the importance of such narrative analysis in methodological terms, they also offer case examples that demonstrate both how it works and what we learn from it. What is more, the three case narratives make an essential contribution to our understanding of the role of environmental networks in the policy process. The book, in short, is an impressive addition to the literature.”
—Frank Fischer, Professor of Politics and Global Affairs, Rutgers University
“This book is quite important, in that it opens the path to new ways of studying social interactions of all kinds, a path that blends detailed interviews with what is in the end a literary sensibility. It is an integration of social science and the arts, an approach that is in some ways less precise than social science in imitation of the natural sciences but an exploration that is equally valid and useful as a way of understanding human interactions. I thank the authors for an enjoyable read.”
—Robert Paehlke, Professor Emeritus, Environmental and Resource Studies, Trent University